Ontogenesis or Onto Genesis? That Mike Carey is awfully clever, not only when it comes to creating catchy titles for storylines, but for also crafting a series month-in-and-month-out, with co-conspirator Peter Gross, that is a prime example of why Vertigo publishes the best comics around. Where else can you find a comics story that takes you back to the birthplace of our incredible medium and most importantly to meet Miriam Walzer, a comics writer and artist who uses Greek myth as a parable to an adventure story starring the deliciously strange, The Tinker? Miriam is one of the best realized characters I’ve read in any story, and I wish we could see more of her someday. And where else can you be transported back to the magical borough of Brooklyn (even if this story does take place during the Depression!) and walk the tree-lined streets of Flatbush, take a stroll through Prospect Park and ponder the universe while gazing through the spires of the Brooklyn Bridge? Plus there’s an unlikely, but passionate romance, a mysterious murder plot, and a very odd case of sibling rivalry. As an editor working here for many years on so many amazing stories, it’s so hard to choose favorites, but the On To Genesis storyline in THE UNWRITTEN volume 5, on sale this week, is definitely on that list. For fans of THE UNWRITTEN who wait for the trade to read the entire story, you will continue to be captivated. And for those who haven’t yet read this book, this is a perfect time to be swept away. Here are a few of my favorite pages, plus a spectacular cover by Yuko Shimizu, no doubt inspired by the great Fritz Lang! See you next week, Karen
The game-changing, twice-monthly epic "Tommy Taylor and the War of Words" written by Mike Carey with art by Peter Gross and M.K. Perker (Air, Cairo) begins today! Tom Taylor goes to war against the cabal that has tormented, imprisoned and tried to destroy him – and it's far more than just a war of words! To have a hope of winning, Tom must use every weapon he can get hold of, but even storybook magic carries its own risks. And for a story unlike any you've ever seen, the first of the special, standalone .5 issues #31.5 begins in two weeks.
In 1930s New York, Wilson Taylor confronts the true enormity of his betrayals, while in the present day, Tom comes face-to-face with the Tinker.
Read the finale of "On to Genesis” in THE UNWRITTEN #30 this Wednesday!
And here’s a look at a couple gorgeous covers by Yuko Shimizu for THE UNWRITTEN #33 and #33.5!
While the cabal continue their seemingly motiveless murder spree, Tom Taylor researches his father's journals to uncover the secret connections between Wilson Taylor and his deadliest enemy, Pullman--as well as a hint at an eighty-year-old mystery that could be a clue to Tom's own nature and origins.
Check out the two page spread below from THE UNWRITTEN #28, in stores tomorrow, with art by Peter Gross and Vince Locke. The setting is 1930s Brooklyn, NY--the Golden Age of a new artistic medium and the birth of a new type of hero.
Come back Friday as we reveal the making-of these two significant pages.
And here’s the first look at the cover of issue #31.5:
The hammer goes down, the auction begins, and lot number 100 is . . . Tom Taylor. Who's going to be bidding, and what do they want him for? Tom hopes he never finds out - but he's out of options, in the hands of his enemies, and locked in a sensory deprivation tank that's terrifyingly familiar...
Mike Carey and Peter Gross continue to amaze in THE UNWRITTEN #26 on sale today.
Tom Taylor returns as the two-part storyline “Citizen Taylor” begins. Wilson Taylor’s belongings are up for auction and Lizzie and Savoy have a plan to get hold of lot 57. But Tom’s memories are sparked when he spots a different item up for auction.
THE UNWRITTEN #25 is in stores today.
THE UNWRITTEN is an incredibly unique book. There "real" world scenes and scenes from the Tommy Taylor novels, there are TV news broadcasts and online chats, and so much more. All of these moments, which can be very complicated, are depicted seamlessly both in prose and visually, so I asked ongoing series artist Peter Gross what the secret is. And here's what Peter had to say:
I’m going to use the occasion of the release of Dead Man’s Knock: Volume 3 of The Unwritten to talk a bit about how we work on The Unwritten, and what an unusual sort of comic experience it is for all of us involved.
From reading reviews online and talking to readers at conventions I’ve heard a lot of questions about how Mike and I work on the book--partly because readers assume the writer comes up with the ideas, and partly because we are intentionally vague in the credits--usually listing Mike Carey and Peter Gross, script-story-art. We thought that might do the trick but the reality is that the Unwritten is a very unique series and hard to pin down. So here’s my take on The Unwritten method...
Mike and I create the story together on a pretty much 50/50 basis. It’s a fluid process filled with lots of discussion, straying off into interesting territory and filled with lots of trans-Atlantic “Eureka!” moments——many that don’t make the final cut (you wouldn’t believe some of those ideas!). But when we’re satisfied, Mike goes off and writes a first draft of the script, then we have even more discussions, change some things, nail down everything we want to be there, and discuss it with our editors (Pornsak Pichetshote until issue 24 and now Karen Berger and Joe Hughes). After that, Mike writes a 2nd and generally final draft, and I’ll go to layouts. I make notes and change some things as I go, usually emailing Mike all along that process. When the layouts are done we finalize all my questions and then get the inks done. After it’s lettered, we have another discussion to make sure it all flows, Mike tweaks the script, revisions are made while the book is being colored, and then we’re done (except for all the last minute errors we all missed but someone seems to find just before the book goes to press). And by that time were knee-deep in the process for the next issue.
So Mike does write every word--but Mike and I plot the book together--and the editorial department tries to keep us in check.
And while I’m revealing our working methods, I have a confession to make——I don’t draw the book completely by myself! When I do the inks on an issue, I have help. Barb Guttman and Brittney Sabo are the two fine artists who assist me. They help draw backgrounds and finish inks, and generally go hunting for the copious amount of reference we need each day. Kudos to them for helping The Unwritten to arrive on time!
On the issues I don’t ink (like the Choose Your Own Adventure type story in Volume 3) we get a finisher to do the inks on the book. What that means is I do really loose pencils and then I get a great artist/inker to “finish” those pages. We’re trying to do this in a way that adds dimension to the book and we want the look to be wildly different and reflect each artist and story. In V2 we had Jimmy Broxton on the Nazi arc, and Kurt Huggins and Zelda Devon do the wildly different Willowbanks Tales, featuring the now famous foul-mouthed bunny, Pauly Bruckner. In Volume 3 we have the great Ryan Kelly, and in the next trade we’ll have Vince Locke and Al Davison. I love seeing these different artistic styles over the skeleton I give them and it works out fabulously for the subject matter of the Unwritten.
And the rest of the team can’t be spared from these creative revelations...
Todd Klein doesn’t do every bit of lettering! I feel guilty over all the work involved in the media type pages we do so I don’t make Todd letter them. Instead we do them in my studio, and poor Barb spends hours and hours on them. And in the crazy acid trip section of V3 where letters are swirling about in the foreground and background I did them on my ipad with a great little program called TypeDrawing. So don’t blame Todd if you don’t like those pages!
Chris Chuckry doesn’t color the book completely by himself! My wife, and great artist, Jeanne McGee does the watercolors for the Tommy Taylor world pages and some of the other “fictional world” pages early in the series--although we’ve gotten a bit away from the Tommy Taylor pages as we go. So, of late, it’s been all Chris, all the time...
Yuko Shimizu does do the covers all by herself! The only person on The Unwritten who seems to be completely self-reliant is Yuko——though I don't know how she manages it on a regular basis. One of my great happy Unwritten moments each month is seeing her cover sketch ideas, and always having a hard time deciding which one is the best, since they all look so good! So the only revelation I can give you is that despite what some of you seem to believe, our Yuko is not the Yuko Shimizu who invented Hello Kitty!
Let’s face it, this book is just too demanding for the usual methods and everyone involved has been a great sport at being flexible and giving their best work and I think it really shows in the end product. I know we’ve asked a lot of our team and they’ve all come through time and time again, and this wouldn’t be such a great book without them.
I know that for Mike and I, The Unwritten is a labor of love for storytelling and the comics medium, and there’s great stuff coming down The Unwritten road.
One of the most startling things for me when I’m working on The Unwritten is how quickly we seem to get to climactic events that we always knew we’d include but didn’t have a fixed schedule for. The events of Dead Man’s Knock are a case in point. Killing a major character so early in the game seems crazy, on the face of it, but the more Peter and I talked about it, the more sense it seemed to make. And the title is a subtle clue as to why.
When I was about nine years old, my brother Chris gave me a book of poetry he bought in a library sale. It was called Classic Poems for Children, and it was full of slightly weird, slightly sinister stuff that had been considered suitable for kids in an age when the concept of psychological trauma didn’t exist.
In among the rest – Struwwelpeter, The Pied Piper, The Listeners – was a poem called The hand of Glory, ostensibly by Thomas Ingoldsby (but really by a slightly crazed English cleric named Richard Harris Barham). The poem tells of three cut-throats who mount a raid on a rich man’s house in the middle of the night, aiming to rob and murder him. They’ve armed themselves with the hand of a dead man cut down from a gibbet, which – after suitable magics have been performed on it – has the ability to open any door. You knock on the door with the dead man’s hand, and it just flies open, no matter how many locks or bolts are on it. I’d forgotten most of the poem, but a few lines stayed with me:
'Now open lock
To the Dead Man's knock!
Fly bolt, and bar, and band!
Nor move, nor swerve
Joint, muscle, or nerve,
At the spell of the Dead Man's hand!
Sleep all who sleep!— Wake all who wake!—
But be as the Dead for the Dead Man's sake!!'
Tommy Taylor’s magic doorknob probably owes its existence to those lines – but more important is the idea of a power that only comes into its own when the person who forges and wields it is dead. So yeah, that went into the mix for volume 3 of The Unwritten. It’s a lot cheaper than going to a therapist…